Meditation and Mindfulness in Addiction Recovery

man in recovery meditating and practicing mindfulness

If you suffer from addiction or know someone who does, you may have heard of mindfulness. Meditation and mindfulness are growing in popularity as tools to recover from drug and alcohol use disorders.

Addiction is a disease of the mind that impacts our behavior and choices. One of those choices is recovery. But recovery doesn't just happen — it takes transformative work on the part of the person recovering. Mindfulness is one of many tools at your disposal while on your journey to sobriety.

There is groundbreaking research available on the positive effects of meditation and mindfulness and how they can help with recovery. Let’s explore some of those findings.

What Is Meditation, And Why Should I Do It?

Meditation is an ancient practice that can help you relax, reduce stress, and experience relief from anxiety. People meditate for many reasons. Some do it to feel calm, while others practice meditation to improve their concentration or the quality of their sleep. The act of meditation is a way to give time back to ourselves. We can create a space where we can truly be present and connect with our inner selves through meditating. Other benefits of meditation include:

  • Becoming more self-aware
  • Increased patience and tolerance
  • Longer attention span and improved ability to concentrate
  • Improved sleep
  • Pain relief
  • Decreased levels of blood pressure
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Improved emotional wellbeing
  • Decreased levels of stress and anxiety

There are many different ways to meditate. Some sessions may last for several minutes, while others go on for hours. You can meditate while sitting still in a quiet place or while moving around. Some people focus on their breath, while others use a mantra (a repeated sound, word, or phrase) or a visualization (imagining something they find calming). There's no right or wrong way to meditate. Whatever works best for you is the right way. One of the positive aspects of meditation is that it doesn’t require special equipment or a financial commitment. Anyone can meditate, no matter their background or their addiction.

It's worth trying different kinds of meditation until you find one that works for your body and mind. There are many different ways to meditate, including:

Loving Kindness Meditation is a practice where people sit comfortably in a relaxed position and focus on their breathing while picturing a person they love. Individuals can use deep breathing, mantras, guided visualizations, and even self-hypnosis to bring about a state of relaxation. The purpose of Loving Kindness Meditation is to evoke feelings of goodwill, benevolence, and compassion for yourself and others.

Have you ever set out to meditate, only to find yourself distracted by the thoughts swirling in your mind? If so, consider Transcendental Meditation, a technique in which you don't make any effort to be conscious or clear your thoughts. This type of meditation entails repeating a personalized mantra and is taught one-on-one by an instructor. Since it doesn't require a lot of physical effort on your part, it can be a great option if you're looking for something you can do when you're tired or stressed. It's recommended to practice Transcendental Meditation for at least twenty minutes, twice a day.

In Movement Meditation, the practitioner uses repetitive physical motions to calm and quiet the mind. Qigong and Tai Chi are types of "moving meditation." Qigong is a type of exercise where you repeat specific movements that resemble natural motions like walking or swimming. Tai Chi uses slow, fluid motions. Some people discover that practicing these movements helps them stay focused during their meditations. For others, yoga is also a type of moving meditation. At Lake Avenue Recovery, we offer complimentary wellness classes to help guide your recovery.

The student of the ancient practice of Vipassana refocuses their attention on their body sensations and tries not to respond to anything that may come into their mind during a meditation session. There is no mantra in this meditation, unlike Transcendental Meditation.

As you've probably gathered, Guided Meditation is led by instruction. This can be in-person or virtually through audio or video. The instructor may use music or visuals. Most guided meditations begin with a focus on the breath. The guide may introduce a theme in the form of a mantra or ask you to envision different places or situations in your mind's eye.

How Mindfulness Can Help You Recover From Drugs and Alcohol

What is the difference between mindfulness and meditation? While meditation is something you do or practice, the goal of meditation is to reach a state of mindfulness. When you work to be mindful, you try to pay attention to what you are experiencing in the present moment. While you acknowledge your thoughts and feelings as they arise, you attempt to accept them without judgment. For example, mindfulness can help you reach acceptance surrounding a traumatic experience rather than suppressing your memories and emotions.

Mindfulness can improve stress levels and sleep quality, leading to improvement in overall health, providing a solid foundation for recovery. This practice has also been tested in people recovering from alcohol and substance use disorders.

Mindfulness-based interventions are backed by science, which has proven that practicing these therapies alters your brain's gray matter and "may have important implications for protecting against mood-related disorders and aging-related cognitive declines."

Mindfulness-Based Interventions (MBI) is the clinical term for therapeutic approaches that involve mindfulness. Studies have shown that these methods are effective in the treatment and recovery of patients with drug and alcohol addictions. Mindfulness training helps people to regulate their thoughts and emotions, which is an important stage in the rehabilitation process. Clients who learn these self-regulating strategies can respond to stimuli in healthy ways and avoid turning to drugs or alcohol.

Three methods of Mindfulness-based interventions (MBI) are:

  1. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)
  2. Mindfulness Compassion (MSC)
  3. Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE)

Each of these programs offers different tools and techniques. Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE) is especially helpful for those struggling with addiction. MORE therapy aims to help people manage chronic pain, control addictive behavior, and regulate negative emotions. MORE involves a combination of mindfulness training, a reappraisal of maladaptive thoughts, and focusing on rewarding or positive experiences. In a 2019 study, participants who participated in MORE therapy (as opposed to standard treatment) reported having better self-control over drug cravings.

In 2019, the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work studied an inpatient treatment program for young adults. Researchers found that "completing just eight weeks of mindfulness training led to drops in stress and cravings — and improved chances of staying clean — even six months later."

There's a reason meditation and mindfulness are referred to as practices. They take time and energy to learn, but having them in your recovery toolkit is well worth the investment. These practices encourage us to be aware of ourselves, and subsequently, they allow us to accept ourselves as we are, without judgment. With the help of mindfulness practices, you will learn how to manage cravings, prevent relapse, cope with stress and anxiety, maintain healthy relationships, and become self-sufficient in your recovery journey.

Lake Avenue Recovery has a proven track record of helping people recover from addiction. We are passionate about using research-based mindfulness practices to help our treatment clients recover. We offer complimentary wellness services, including mindful meditation, yoga, reiki, and qi-gong, to help you cope with anything that may be standing in the way of your recovery. You will learn how to manage cravings and prevent relapse. Call 508-794-4400 to learn more about our mindfulness offerings.

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